On Leadership — Peter Lougheed and Luis Urzua (Part 3)

MacGregor Burns wrote a great book on Leadership.  He made two important arguments that many have since adopted.

Burns proposed that there are three stages of leadership:  transmissional; transactional; and transformational.  Transmissional leadership is Joe Stalin (or the boss) saying, “Do this or I will fire you (or worse).”  Transactional leadership is Stephen Harper saying “If you do this for me, I’ll do that for you.”  Transformational leadership is Nelson Mandela saying, “We are going to recreate South Africa as the rainbow nation and each of us, whether black, or white, or mixed race, is going to be transformed – different in the result than we are now and in some important way, better off.”

Burns argued that both transmissional and transactional leadership are insufficient and inherently undermine democracy.  He thought that transformational leadership is essential and inevitable (but perhaps not imminent).

The second important insight that Burns had was that “leadership” is not really the label for the characteristics of the person who is the leader.  It is really the label for the characteristics of the relationship between the ‘Leader’ and the ‘followers’.  Burns characterized progress as being like a ricocheting bundle of energy that bounces back and forth between parallel rails ascending upward.  As Gandhi is reputed to have said:  “Sometimes I am the leader of my people; and sometimes they lead me.”

(Perhaps we should study leadership less and citizenship more, including both effective leadership and discerning followership.)

My personal experience with Peter Lougheed, and my reading about Luis Urzua support Burns arguments.

Transformational leadership:

• is all about relationships;

• respects every person, and helps each person grow and lead as best they can;

• moves people to a place where they may be better off, and changes them in the process;

• does not leave the sick, or wounded, or destitute, or grieving behind;

• is democratic;

• offers hope to the larger community, beyond where transformation is being worked.

Whether in a place as blessed as Alberta in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s and ‘80’s, or in a place as bleak as a deep and shattered mine in 2010, transformational leadership is what we need, and sometimes discover.  We need to look for it more often, and look for it inside ourselves and in our neighbours.



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